More than 20 years ago, the historical rate of shrinking transistors to improve speed, density, power consumption, and cost became impossible to maintain. Even with slower physical scaling, however, electronics manufacturers steadily improved their products by exploiting new materials, new device and circuit designs, and faster communication between chips.
Many researchers believe there is a new opportunity to dramatically improve the transistors themselves by fashioning them out of the atomically thin sheets that naturally form in graphene and related layered materials. Incorporating a new material into highly optimized, state-of-the-art manufacturing will not be easy, although industry has done it before. It may start by grafting two-dimensional (2D) materials onto traditional chips to provide special capabilities, such as better interconnections or integrated optical devices. "Some form of 2D materials is going to be introduced integrally into the electronics eventually," said Xiangfeng Duan of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).